If you thought Randy Holden loved his guitar, wait’ll you get a load of Ry Wharton,
the mastermind / sole member of King Blood. Just listen to his debut album, self-
released in a limited edition, and then reissued by Permanent Records, and tell me
he doesn’t dress his axe up, Real Doll-style, and take it out on dates. King Blood
takes this level of six-string admiration and focuses it on one or two riffs per song,
hypnotizing the listener with a blown-out recording to rival High Rise or Aufgehoben
in terms of crackling low-end. It’s great. Wharton not only offers some insight into
the project during our chat, he also provides a tracklisting to what might be the
ultimate guitar-rock mixtape, and in a dream come true, offers me a chance to be a
part of the project (although he was probably just being nice). Be sure to check out
Vengeance, Man, his new 12″ release on the always fashionable Richie Records label,
out this month.

What’d you get into first – heavy metal or punk?
Metal. The first band I was in basically did Ride the Lightning-era Metallica covers
– I think this would be around 6th or 7th grade. At some point that led to
punk/hardcore. I came at that from several directions (through Nirvana/Mudhoney,
etc.), but I definitely remember picking up a $1 Septic Death CD in a used bin
because of the Pushead artwork (that I knew from Metallica). That blew my mind.
It just sounded so alien. It seemed like when I was in high school you had to be
into either metal or punk, but I always liked (and continue to like) both.

So who did you hang with, the metal crowd or the punk crowd?
I don’t know if I really ran with either crowd. I definitely went to more punk
shows when I was young, but I was hanging out with nerds, hippies, and everyone else.

At what point did King Blood start? Was Snake Apartment still happening?
I’d say it started around the time I moved to California. Snake Apartment was still
together, but since I was on another coast, jamming was few and far between. We
continued to do some dates around the country and recorded some demos, but I had a
bunch of time on my hands, and started recording a bunch of riffs on a 4-track.
It became a release that I started spending more and more time on.

Is it King Blood as in the blood of a king, or a king named Blood?
It’s a bit of both… I was thinking of a late career Jim Thompson novel named King
. It’s really brutal and over-the-top, but at the same time really odd.

How important is the recording quality to a King Blood record? Your records so far
all share a pretty crusty, blown-out sound…

Definitely… I like the overblown sound, and how it starts to eliminate or mystify
the origins of the sounds. And it creates interesting phantom melodies and harmonies.

Does that mean King Blood couldn’t really exist in the confines of a slick studio sound?
I don’t know. I might have thought that the sound was essential initially. Like I
mentioned, I love that instruments and sounds can become a thick, mangled mess that
makes it hard to tell what’s actually going on within the riffs. But a couple of
new tracks are fairly clean sounding (to me), and it’s been interesting to try and
pull back the overblown quality and see how that changes the overall feel and groove.

How did the release of your first LP come out? You did that completely yourself, from
recording to the pressing… what was your intent with that record?

To get the songs out of my head. I had those tunes (and a bunch more) done for awhile,
and I was just listening to them at home all the time. I wanted to move on to doing
something else – either turn it into more of a full band, or make new songs, or
something entirely different. But I felt that I should do something with those songs,
or I would keep going back and tweaking them endlessly. I sent some CD-rs out to
friends, who liked it. A friend of mine was organizing a show at a new gallery in
Brooklyn, and he talked to me about doing something for it. I had made some prints for
it, and it used some of the artwork that I had sort of stashed away for a hypothetical
King Blood release. Out of this conversation, I decided just to press up a small batch
of the LP for his show. (I think either you or Brent (of Dull Knife Records) turned
me onto the 100 press deal?) One-hundred copies was a package deal, and I just assembled
them myself and sent some of those off to the gallery with some prints. The rest of
the copies I sent out to some friends and a couple of distros. I figured could eventually
get rid of 100 copies, and it was a way to put a fork in those songs.

Is there a maximum number of riffs per King Blood song? How intricate would you consider

One! Nah, there’s no real formula. I like capturing a slice of something, an essential
moment in a riff and expanding it. More and more I like to then sort of fill in the
color around it. Or, I hear several parts in my head that constitute one riff.

Will there ever be vocals on a King Blood record? Yours or otherwise?
There actually are some vocals on the first record. Lyrics too… but they are mixed
in with everything else and act more as texture or have a slightly rhythmic feel.
There are some new tracks where slightly more audible vocals appear. I’m curious to
see if they work – definitely interested in how they integrate overall into the
explorations of the riff that I’ve been into. Guest vocals could be really interesting
too, bringing in a different timbre. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead…
you interested in laying some down?

Anytime! Is there any particular song or riff that you wish you had written first?
What a hard (and great) question. Damn, too many to count. The riff from International
Harvester / Trad Gras oct Stenar’s “Sommarlaten” is something I could listen to all day.
One of those CD reissues has the bonus 26-minute live version that just goes on for
miles. And, it’s probably really uncool, but I would have loved to have written the bombastic
intro riff to “Carry On Wayward Son”. Kansas hit that one out of the park – such a
ridiculous riff. Is that too obvious? Or “Snowblind”, or Highway Robbery’s “Fifteen”,
some Dennison licks on “Monkey Trick” and “South Mouth”, Hendrix’s main melodic riff
in “1983…”, Horslips’ “Dearg Doom”, “Breadfan”, “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”,
or most of Budgie’s catalog, and for that matter, “Hocus Pocus” by Focus, Flag’s “I’m
the One”, Pete Cosey’s riffs on “Down in the Bottom”, or maybe BOC’s “Screams” or
“Transmaniacon MC” verse riffs. Or: the verse riff in Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera”,
Sweet Savage’s “Eye of the Storm”, that intro to Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy”. What
about the main riff in “Deathcrush”? So obvious and perfect. Or the breakdown in
Death’s “Living Monstrosity”. Some of these are just so simple and melodic, you can’t
imagine that there was a time that they never existed. That’s the genius of a good
riff – it essentially feels instantly familiar.